JERUSALEM (Jul. 26)
Mattityahu Drobless, co-chairman of the World Zionist Organization’s settlement department, unveiled a plan today to surround the West Bank Arab town of Nablus with a bloc of 10-12 new Jewish settlements. “This should be our answer to the Security Council resolution (passed last week) branding Israeli settlements in Judaea and Samaria illegal,” Drobless told reporters during a press tour of Gush Emunim settlements on the West Bank.
He said he has already discussed his plan informally with several ministers and intends to submit it to the Cabinet very soon. He said his ultimate aim was to settle a total of 100,000 Jews on the West Bank during the five-year autonomy period in order to ensure that the territory’s political future was shaped and influenced by Israel by virtue of a massive Jewish presence there. He said that at present there are 18,000 Jews living in 41 West Bank settlements, 33 of them established since the Likud government took office in May, 1977. The tour included the controversial Gush Emunim settlement site of Elon Moreh four kilometers from Nablus, where development work has been halted by order of the Supreme Court. The court has ordered the government to present proof that the expropriation of Arab land for the settlement was necessary for security reasons.
But the Gush settlers were defiant of the Supreme Court. Benny Katzover, leader of the Elon Moreh settlers and other Gush leaders from nearby settlements threatened that the Gush would take “unorthodox action” soon if the land expropriation issue is not resolved to their satisfaction. They did not say what “action” they contemplated. But Katzover told reporters that his settlement would apply to become a party to the Supreme Court action. He contended that the high court has no right to issue orders concerning Jewish settlement in “the land of Israel.”
Katzover, who is also secretary of the Kadumim settlement, and Daniella Weiss, secretary of the Ofra settlement near Ramallah, urged the government to drop its contention that land expropriations were requited “for security purposes” and to declare openly that Jewish settlement was a national and Zionist goal. They agreed that full compensation should be paid to the dispossessed Arabs.
SECURITY NEEDS STRESSED
But Drobless stuck to the security needs argument and sought to play down the land seizures in expounding on his program to reporters. He said that some cultivated and some barren Arab lands would have to be expropriated near Ofra to make room for the expansion of that settlement. But there would be no need for further expropriations at Kadumim and Shavei Shomron near Nablus he said because both settlements are located adjacent to army camps which will be dismantled in the coming months.
He said he hoped the Supreme Court would eventually find in favor of the government in the case of Elon Moreh. He claimed that the hilltop site overlooking a head junction outside Nablus was vital to security. “In my opinion, the strategic importance of this spot speaks for itself,” he said. He said his plan called for the construction of three additional settlements in the same area to form a “settlement bloc” with all local amenities and facilities. Without such surroundings, Elon Moreh would not be viable as an isolated outpost he said.
He plans to create similar blocs centering on Shavei Shomron and Kadumim on the apposite flanks of Nablus and a fourth bloc, Tirzeh to the northeast of Nablus. He claimed that his long-range settlement plans called for minimal expropriation of privately owned Arab land. The vast bulk of the settlements would be built on State owned land and only in “five percent of the cases” would expropriation be required. He said that he would recommend fair compensation to the owners, adding that “No other country would act differently in a similar situation.”
Drobless claimed that more than 3400 Israeli families have expressed interest in settling on the West Bank and another 150 Jewish families in the U.S., Britain and France have made their plans to immigrate to Israel contingent on their being able to settle on the West Bank. According to Drobless, this belies the contention that the settlements lack people to populate them.
He gave the reporters a breakdown of the present West Bank settlements according to type. He said 20 were “community settlements,” meaning non-collective ventures; nine are urban settlements intended to grow into small towns; five moshavim, cooperative small-holders settlements; three kibbutzim; and two “industrial villages.”